From Darkest Skies. Book Review

From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters
Gollancz, h/b, 336pp, £14.99
Reviewed by Martin Willoughby

The review copy I have states that the book has been optioned for TV and I can see why. It’s bland, inoffensive, and has some fairly standard characters that would be easy to cast if you wanted to hire young, attractive actors with very little depth to them. That’s not say it’s a bad book, it isn’t. It’s well written, has a good story, decent background and some good world building. What it lacks is that x-factor that makes it a must read. On Amazon I’d give it 3 stars.

Keon has returned to Magenta from Earth after a mission to protect some Traveller hardware goes wrong. So badly wrong that the invisibility suit goes missing. The details of what went wrong aren’t explained at the start and only come out towards the end. Nothing major. Just the details of what went missing, what happened to Keon and why it was considered so bad that he was sent back to Magenta. Nothing major at all.

The reader is told there’s a cloud over his head, but it’s not explained. For me that was a problem from the outset.

Keon is male. It took nearly a dozen pages for me to realise this, not just because of the way the character is written. Well, actually, it is due to that. Even after it became clear, I could still only see him as a female character, even when other women were flirting with him. (Hey, I’m a 21st century man.)

The other characters are, as I said, fairly standard and easy to cast for TV. They have attitudes, problems, love lives and sundry other responsibilities in life, even the hippy officer. (I kid you not.)

The story itself is about murders, horrific murders. How horrific? Imagine watching someone blow up from the inside and being covered with their blood and internal organs. Or even watch them melt in front of you. No one knows what’s causing it, but the team do eventually find a link between them all, one that makes sense and is eloquently seeded from the beginning.

And that is where this book does score: the main story. It hangs together really well. The opening murders, the investigation, the revelations and the team of detectives using their own skills to get to the final result. Very satisfying.

The part that pulls the book down is Keon’s own backstory regarding the death of his wife five years ago, which begins with the lack of information about the cloud he/she is under, which may have been designed to add some suspense but all it did was annoy me, and continues with a few chapters about some other person who keeps changing identities. All for the lack of a few paragraphs at the beginning.

All in all it’s not a bad book and if you happen to be given a copy, read it and enjoy. As for buying it, wait until the paperback is discounted, or the kindle version is listed for free on Amazon. If it does get made into a TV show, it’ll do well as it seems to be aimed at the kind of audience that doesn’t want to think about a show, just have it on in the background.